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Student Assessment in CBL

Student Assessment in Case-Based Learning

© goodluz - Fotolia.comImplementing case-based learning in the classroom will seem uncomfortable to the teacher who is not very familiar with the approach. Evaluating student performance may be even more uncomfortable.  It may be just as distressing to the students who are used to traditional multiple choice or fill-in-the-blanks tests and for parents who may not understand how their student will be accurately assessed on such open-ended assignments.

The assignments and the class instruction are more open-ended and student-centered than in traditional lecture instruction, but with careful lesson planning and preparation case-based learning assessments can be accurate, efficient, and fair.

The most important strategy in effectively assessing student achievement is to establish standards of expectation at the beginning of the lesson or unit. This should be done for every type of instruction that results in assessment, so it is certainly not unique to case-based learning. It may, however, be even more essential to reducing the anxiety of a very different approach (if this is new to your classroom).

The table below defines the learning characteristic, the standard, and provides some criteria for assessing case-based learning outcomes. (Source:  Wasserman, S. (1994). Introduction to case method teaching: A guide to the galaxy. New York: Teachers College Press.) (Although this table was specifically designed for case-based learning assessments, it can be adapted for problem-based learning assessments as well.)

It presents concrete evaluative factors to consider. Some teachers may want to choose the characteristic and then use a standard rubric form in which incremental ratings are assigned and descriptions of standards are given.  No matter what you form you choose for assessment, it is a good idea to review the form with your students prior to their work.

Case-based learning Standards and Criteria for Student Assessment




Student Behavior

Intellectual Development

Quality of thinking


Communication, research and interpersonal skills


Personal perspectives, beliefs and values, self-evaluation

Generative Activities


Evidence of research; analysis of information; organization & layout; creativity and originality

Written & Oral Presentations

Organization; fresh perspective; use of examples; development of ideas; use of facts to substantiate arguments; quality of thought and analysis

Field Study

Hypothesis; systematic data collection; relevance of conclusions; identification of relationships

Analytical Activities

Making Comparisons

Ability to zero in on significant factors; extensive comparison

Applying Principals

Recognize principles or rules that apply; logical connection of principles and situations

Evaluating and Judging

Specific, reasonable, sound and appropriate criteria; clear relationship


Comprehension of big ideas; analyses focused on important meaning; articulation of importance; discernment of implicit content and making inferences; speculation presented with caution


Reflection of key ideas; succinct, accurate representation of key issues; articulate and intelligible summaries


Connected attributes; larger purpose; enable new meaning; beyond the obvious


Articulated values behind choices; humanly sound values; informed choice using best available data; carefully thought out

Creating and Inventing

Cognitive risks; truly new, fresh and imaginative; appropriate to demands of the task

Designing Investigations

Frame problem for thoughtful investigation; logical, thoughtful investigation plans; data will yield information about the problem; viability; built-in evaluation; clear relationship between plan and problem

Source for table:
Wasserman, S. (1994). Introduction to case method teaching: A guide to the galaxy. New York: Teachers College Press